Spectrum Monitor - How a great gaming monitor is born from the crowd
Dough Spectrum, formerly Eve Spectrum, is the first ever crowd-developed monitor from an Internet community of over 7,000 gamers, designers, coders and other enthusiasts where everyone has a say on basically everything including specs, design... that the production model of the monitor would have. It has risen to become our flagship product category, receiving stellar reviews from Spectrum owners, tech reviewers and notable press outlets.
The project was initiated at the beginning of 2019. While the initial production would have taken only a year at max, the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 had put many of our estimations into waste. Factories were put on hold for several months. International travel was banned, domestic travel was restricted. The supply chain crisis is getting worse every year. However, we have managed to ship out to enthusiasts since summer 2021 and help them setting up their gaming corners. And many will receive theirs this year.
So, let’s look at our project history of how a great gaming monitor is born from a crowd of tech enthusiasts and how a development in public truly is.
The hall of fame - Names of thousands of brilliant minds behind the development of Spectrum monitors
2019 – Project Spectrum was born out of the community.
When we were coming up with ideas for our future projects, we came back to our roots – the community of tech enthusiasts. Polls were sent out to both our forum and an external survey site to decide on our next projects. Over two-thousand people respond!
Based on our quick inquiry into the supply chain and survey results we think there is a lot of potential in the monitor category to provide substantially better value. Generally, monitors seem to either have too many features (making them way unnecessarily expensive) or they lack emphasis on their most important features. There are a lot of gaming monitors in the market but there are no clear winners unless you surpass the 1,500 USD price point. We think there is a lot of room to make a great product.
Kicking off, we were trying to find out what is most important in a monitor because deciding what you want is the hardest part of selecting any product. Normally we try to optimize everything. But when selecting a product, it’s important to realize that you can’t have everything! Creating any good product is about prioritizing one feature over another. A product trying to be great in everything typically turns out to be either very expensive, or a disappointment. Why? Because this is the nature of technology. In our opinion, when talking about gaming monitors, it’s useful to imagine three priorities competing in the corners of a triangle.
As we tried to come up with use cases that balance features, we asked our great community about what they really need and want in a gaming monitor, so we can understand more about market demand.
Some survey questions that help shed light of what is the dream gaming monitor.
You might wonder why we did a bunch of surveys while we had no idea what to do. Well, throughout our company journey, we always find that this is the best way for product development. The traditional way of developing products in silos, launching them to mass market, and hoping that it will magically cut the barrier of product market fit is not bad. But there is a better way to develop products with cutting-edge technology. It’s hand-in-hand development alongside with community and users – the one who will be the end-users in the long run. With that, when we have products ready to buy, we bypass the product-market-fit stage that millions of startups are struggling to get out of currently.
Behind the scenes, we’ve been discussing our options with top-tier panel vendors such as Sharp, LG, Panasonic and BOE. We have a bunch of roadmaps, each offering a variety of monitor panels. Along with the process, we have already disqualified many that do not meet more popular feature requests, but there are still some interesting panels remaining. Also, we’ve found that the price of the panel almost linearly correlates to the price of the finished product, as the higher-spec panels require higher-spec electronics to drive them. It seems that the panel makes up about 70% of the cost of the entire monitor. Seeing what panels are available on the market has also given us a substantially better understanding of the trade-offs that exist between the many options. But since we can’t have everything (at least not without breaking the bank), there are trade-offs with any product. So check out which trade-offs were we willing to make back then!
This process also helped come up with the name - Project Spectrum.
Spectrum's definition from Wikipedia:
A spectrum (plural spectra or spectrums) is a condition that is not limited to a specific set of values but can vary, without steps, across a continuum. The word was first used scientifically in optics to describe the rainbow of colors in visible light after passing through a prism.
Later, we’ve listed and discussed a number of available display panels based on meetings with a number of manufacturers, because finding a perfect panel for a gaming monitor is not an easy task. Sometimes you find a panel that has an amazing spec sheet but in reality, the colors look dull or light leakage is way out of hand. On the other hand, you might find a panel with what looks like an average spec, that turns out to be a winner once testing it side by side with others!
Something needs to keep the screen in place, and different monitors have different stands. So, we discussed monitor stand should be like. We also asked about the need for integrated speakers.
Ports are also another important topic of discussion because many of us want to actually connect things to the monitors. So we discussed the available port options to make sure Spectrum has all the ports it needs.
At the same time, one important, yet unexpected subject was brought up which is open-source firmware. We had never thought of that feature before that moment, but it turned out to be very important for many. We started looking into what it can do for our users.
@xlltt mentioned that upgradable firmware in a monitor would be an instant buy for him.
@Marty Wrong doubled down by giving his valuable insights.
Approaching the end of May 2019, we revealed what’s been decided so far based on community feedback in an extensive update of Spectrum project. Among other things we locked down the display panel to use, stand adjustments, and some of the ports. Let’s look at a recap of how far we went back then.
- The goal of Spectrum monitor
is to deliver great color performance and high refresh rates at an unprecedented price to quality ratio.
A sample of Spectrum back then
- The monitor stand
Height adjustment and vertical angle adjustment are must-haves, while swivel and rotation are nice-to-haves.
- VESA mount
A lot of users are planning on using a VESA mount, so our monitor will need to support VESA mounting
- The ports
The general consensus so far is that like VGA, a DVI port is too old-fashioned and not needed, while USB-C, HDMI, and DisplayPort are essential! For USB Type-C it would be optimal to support all of the possible features, though the most important one is support for a DisplayPort signal.
- The panel
After testing panels at our office and in China, reviewing users’ responses, and evaluating suppliers, we think that panel from LG is the best option available to us. Why?
- LG is a reliable supplier with high-quality standards, and will help us to minimize light leaks, dead pixels, and other potential issues.
- The sample panel provided from LG visually looks better than anything else we’ve seen in the market today.
- We think that with the state of technology today and current market prices, this panel offers the best bang for the buck!
A sample of monitor panel in our office
We made a visit to the manufacturer of Spectrum and it yielded many specifications and a look into the factory.
If you wonder how many parts that go into making a monitor panel, check the image below. Interesting, right?
Also, watch the video to discover how the back light and panel are assembled!
Over the course of a few hours, Konstantinos - our Co-founder answered a bunch of community questions about the project, and adds others to a list to be discussed with our partners.
Industrial design pops up for the first time, as we discuss what kind of design features are or aren’t important.
Even though there were a lot of things still need to be discussed with the manufacturer, we’re getting a pretty good handle on the specifications.
Our design partner Propeller has come up with initial design directions, giving the first ideas of what our monitor could look like.
Initial sketches of the now-popular Spectrum monitor.
More time with our manufacturer lets us confirm more specs, including a few more ports and requested features. Based on user feedback, the initial design directions have been refined into actual 3D-rendered design concepts.
After some time where the team was hard at work behind the scenes, the first illustrations of the new design were released.
The design team wants the monitor to look amazing. The manufacturing team wants to be able to actually manufacture and assemble it. After much discussion, measuring, adjusting, researching, checking, and adjusting some more, the industrial design was finally locked down.
2020 – A milestone in production
With a big announcement, we revealed the final design of Spectrum monitor. This was not an easy a task as it sounded. Because when we received the first response from our manufacturing partner where they adapted this design to fit all the components it needed to contain, it didn’t look like our designers’ vision at all. We knew from our experiences with the design stage of the V that changes would have to be inevitably made to ensure a good fit for the components and to make sure the parts could actually be manufactured and assembled. This time around, the process took longer than anticipated, with the design moving back and forth between the manufacturer and design team many times. But in the end, we’ve come to a design that both looks great and is functional!
Final design of Spectrum monitor
Product name, estimated launch dates, launch prices, pre-sales… were also announced at the same time.
COVID-19 made it impossible to travel and get to China so we haven’t been able to show you how Spectrum monitor is coming along, but we have been in non-stop calls with engineers in that part of the world. Here is a taste of the kind of images we took during the calls with engineers. If spectrum’s design started as a simple set of 3D shapes, now it’s a massive beast with 1,5 million 3D parts and pieces!
The process so far hasn’t been completely without challenges, but so far nothing that we haven’t been able to successfully resolve. For example, the 4K model had an overheating issue in the LCD panel itself. Working with LG, we were able to overcome this by adding heat sinks and increasing the distance between the panel and housing to allow for better airflow.
Also, here's the first sneak peek of the new bezel-less design.
A new update shows off the improved design for the 240Hz and 4K models.
Alongside the improvement in the panel, we also had big updates on more capable ports. Though graphics cards at the moment are not yet equipped with HDMI 2.1, we are happy to say that Spectrum is. That means you’re prepared for the next generation of graphics cards, with enough bandwidth to drive these panels to their maximum performance. Not only that, you’ll be set for variable refresh rates on the next generation of consoles, as both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 sport HDMI 2.1 ports!
These changes are a result of the scaler we use for these panels. The scaler is the chip that, among other things, processes the incoming video signals, and turns them into instructions for the display- and backlight panels. This means that this chip largely determines the capabilities of the monitor, and we’ve had to upgrade from our original scaler to allow for higher resolution and refresh rate. Keep in mind that the following changes apply only to the 4K and 240Hz models, as the new scaler would drive up the price of the entry level model.
With the monitor in the hands of the electrical engineers, we take a look at what else you might want on your desk to complement Spectrum.
A major milestone is reached, as the first Spectrum prototype is assembled, and Spectrum turns on for the first time! We cannot say how much our team was in tears (of joy) at that moment.
Spectrum Prototype Assembly
Spectrum Prototype Overview
With a new milestone, comes an updated array of information about Spectrum…
We inspected the first batch of Spectrum prototypes and provided constructive feedback to our manufacturer to improve Spectrum.
At the same time, our project manager @Kira introduced Project: Spectrum’s timeline 114, detailing what is being finalized in each project stage. Essentially, each phase has specific goals that help to ensure a product can be produced, from a simple concept all the way to the mass production of thousands of pieces.
All steps in the production process for Spectrum monitor
Once we’ve successfully completed all the steps, we’ll be ready to start mass production (MP).
After worked hard behind the scenes, we kicked off the final tooling, developed packaging, and advanced firmware.
The initial concept of Spectrum packaging
The first generation of hard tooling was put in use to mold Spectrum’s enclosure. We also teased progress in OSD development and revealed long-lead-time component orders.
Spectrum stand’s hard tooling was implemented, and we were exploring a secure stand packaging and performing more tests on Spectrum. We also proudly showed off our community wallpapers on new samples.
We took our community on a virtual journey to our factory where Spectrum’s box will be assembled. Spectrum printed circuit board (PCB) development samples improved and passed more tests. So far, we have tested gaming on Spectrum with various devices and will continue to test its compatibility with even more.
It’s time to show our progress on the monitor’s and stand’s box so far! We focused on three main criteria: safety, user experience, and your request for a sustainable solution.
After putting the fourth generation of Spectrum tooling into use, we reviewed new development samples. These samples resolved most of the CMF and tolerance imperfections found in previous samples, and we were ready to improve them further based on the new findings.
We shipped out a handful of new samples to the press and a few of your favorite reviewers. In addition to that, our China team has expanded and come together to make Spectrum better and offer higher quality pictures and videos to our community.
How did we get to making those samples on the assembly lines? The first step is to lock down the operators’ procedures. . With in-text images and footage, you can see the mini build in action.
Third-party hands-on of development samples was out!. We were glad to have these objective views on our progress so far.
We gave our community an in-depth introduction to Spectrum’s firmware and its current status. The team concentrated on implementing more features and ironing out existing issues.
During a factory tour to our stand manufacturer, we put our camera on and went in-depth on the testing equipment and how individual stand parts are put together on the line.
Our project report brought an extensive update on the hardware and firmware status.
Based on findings of the mini build, we optimized our monitor assembly line and zoomed into details while Spectrum prototypes were being assembled on the line.
We explored various joystick cap directions that will potentially increase its functionality. At the same time, our team paid great attention to meaningful tolerance details and received improvement feedback from our manufacturer. We also asked the community for the inner protective bag folding direction they prefer.
The OSD and firmware received a significant update that implemented many essential features.
As the team shapes up Spectrum’s warranty terms, we had some open questions to our community about the kind of warranty terms they are looking for.
Spectrum On The Line series was concluded by a step-by-step guide of how Spectrum prototypes were tested after the overnight burn-in.
Spectrum has passed about half of the planned reliability and endurance tests. With the help of our customers, we made noticeable progress on Spectrum’s localization. We decided to use the “boilable” Cashew paint for Spectrum’s housing.
In a voice-over video, we repaired a damaged unit, updated the firmware, and took a look at how our newly refurbished prototype behaves.
The entry for becoming a community Spectrum tester has been opened!
The balance payment preliminary information brought insight into the payment process.
We surveyed the community on their use cases of the Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) for developing a test standard for a feature under exploration.
Spectrum’s warranty draft is here! In addition to that, we provided shipping estimates for the main regions, and emphasized the significance of reviews in writing a valid community tester entry.
We took the time to look into your questions regarding the balance payment for Spectrum, and have gathered the answers into a structured FAQ.
An updated Specs & FAQs is released!
You can pick the test item you would like to see from future community testers to help us decide on their selection!
We have HDMI2.1, 100W charging, and user-upgradeable firmware working on our prototypes. Soon, development samples will be shipped out to third-party labs to ensure everything works as it should.
The team members in China have been hands on to ensure Spectrum does what it is supposed to do. We made a voice-over video to give you another peek behind the scenes.
Our China team enjoyed gaming on Spectrum during the Labor Day holiday, while the firmware team delivered three consecutive firmware updates focusing on bug fixes for factory command and various OSD items.
We captured the moment when the monitor box artwork is printed for the first time in the factory.
Spectrum is shipping, reviews have started rolling in, and with more reviews to come, this is all very exciting! Overall, the reviews showcased Spectrum beautifully, but don’t take my word for it. Check out the reviews for yourself below:
- andomfrankp | The King of 4k Gaming Monitors - Eve Spectrum Review
- Optimum Tech | The Best 4k Gaming Monitor? Eve Spectrum Review
Optimum tech also featured Spectrum in his ultra clean gaming setup video.
- 9to5MAC | Eve Spectrum 4K/144Hz Review - A Great Gaming Monitor with a HUGE Asterisk
- Mark’s Tech | Eve Spectrum 4K 144hz First Look
- BigDongDong | Eve Spectrum Review
- Wulff Den | You’re going to want a NEXT-GEN Gaming Monitor for your console setup
- MacRumors | Eve Spectrum 4K HDMI 2.1 Gaming Monitor: Worth the Wait?
- KitGuruTech | Eve Spectrum 4K, 144hz Review (ES07D03)
- DigitalTrends | Eve Spectrum 4K Review: It Exists, and It’s Mighty Good
Even though it's a bit late, Eve's Spectrum 4K might be one of the best gaming monitors money can buy.
- Kotaku | The EVE Spectrum 4K/144Hz HDMI 2.1 Monitor Is A Real Game Changer
EVE Spectrum is finally starting to ship their first batch of 4K 144Hz HDMI 2.1 gaming monitors, and the performance is a genuine surprise.
- TechRadar | Eve Spectrum 4k 144hz (ES07D03) Monitor Review
The Eve Spectrum 4K 144Hz monitor has ports and panels fit for the modern-day gamer
- PC Gamer | Eve Spectrum 4k Gaming Monitor ES07D03
Proof that design by committee can really work.
- TweakTown | Eve Spectrum 4K Gaming Monitor Review : HDMI 2.1 + 4K 144Hz
Eve Spectrum (ES07D03) promises it all: 4K 144Hz + 1ms response time + HDMI 2.1 for your Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, too.
- Techtesters | Eve Spectrum - The 4K 144Hz Gaming Monitor That Rocks
A genuinely competitive 4K 144Hz monitor with unique features at a fair price. That was the promise of the Eve Spectrum…
Despite all of the constraints going on in all parts of the world, we have managed to ship out the very first units of Spectrum monitors to our supporters.
We’ll be back with more soon.